When I accepted the job that took me back to the classroom to teach, I knew I betrayed my children.
Yet, I knew it was what our family needed. I knew we needed the change.
But I had betrayed my children. I'd promised myself I would stay home with them until they were all in school. I'd read all the books, I knew all the studies. I knew what was best for them. (At least, it's what I'd always dreamed of, not trying to make other working mom's feel bad here).
Staying home with my girls no longer became a viable option. Back to work I had to go. After looking for a job for some time, and nothing happening, I thought that was just God reinforcing my desire to stay home with my children.
Then, miraculously a job - the perfect job - opened up. Still, I thought there would be no way they would actually hire me. I was too young. A woman. Everything I knew they were not looking for. Everything that happened around the time when I was hired to teach proved to me that that was exactly where God wanted me to be. I couldn't deny it.
Still, I had betrayed my children. My promises to them. Myself.
I don't know that I've sat down and written this post yet. This post where I come clean about my struggles with being a mom and a teacher.
It has hurt too much.
The first year back I cried every day going to work. Thankfully, my commute took nearly an hour for the first four months, because it took me that long to compose myself after leaving home. Even then, when I arrived at work I had a hard time hiding the puffy eyes and runny nose.
I had to work. Our family needed the job. They needed me to teach. My students needed me. God had put me back in this role as teacher.
Still, I had betrayed my children. My children. My children.
Those first four months when I had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for work, Eleanor would wake up - despite me trying to be super quiet - just to be able to spend time with me. It nearly broke my heart in half. When she would come out onto the patio as I drove away, and reached her arms through the gate to me, crying - begging - me to take her with me. I knew.
I had betrayed my children.
As I taught my students that year - not a moment in each day didn't go by that didn't remind me that I was betraying my children by teaching other people's children. The guilt ate me up everyday.
For awhile, I blamed God. I got angry. I blamed a lot of people. I thought of everyone else whose fault it was that necessitated me to go back to work. I boiled up with anger, and frustration, and pain.
It nearly broke me.
I dreamed about taking my family and disappearing to a deserted island where we didn't need money to survive, just each other, food, and shelter.
I tried with every part of my being not to let my students know how broken I was inside. How hard it was to step outside of the home and leave my children to someone else. Even if that someone else was my husband. I loved my students. I hated feeling guilty for being with them. I felt like the worst teacher on the planet. My students needed me.
But so did my children.
I was their mother. No one else but me could give them what I knew they needed. Me. At a time in their lives which I knew was so critical in their development.
I don't know when it was, or what it was that allowed me to started piecing myself back together again. I don't know when I stopped letting go of my pain, my anger, my guilt, my hate, and my blame.
I can't remember one defining moment, because was no defining moment. There were days where it got easier. After Brandon started teaching at the school, and we moved closer, and I could see my girls at school, and I could see them in the morning and eat breakfast with them, and come home in time to play and have supper with them. Days where I looked forward to going to the classroom and I knew my children were going to okay without me, and it didn't hurt to realize that. But still, even with it being easier, the guilt still lived with me.
The days rolled into each other, and the pain became less, and the joy I found in the moments with my children mattered more than the pain that consumed me without them. Moments when I realized this life is not worth living with that much pain, frustration, guilt, and anger. So, I let it go. I gave it up, I embraced this new life. The life where I work. The life where I'm the one that kisses my daughter goodbye in the morning, and walks out the door, lunch bag, and 'briefcase' in hand.
This year has gotten easier with Eleanor coming with me to school. But still, there's Annabelle - the one I feel I betrayed the most. Who has gotten the least of me, and the worst of me.
So everyday I have to make the conscious decision to let go of the guilt, to accept the fact, guilt-free, that I am a working mother, that I enjoy my job and my time apart from my children. I accept the fact that they are okay without me at home. If I let any day go by where I don't consciously make this my prayer, I let the guilt back in, and those old, dark feelings come back. So, I pray, and give it all to God, and I remember to live in the moment. To hold onto the times that my girls and I do have together, that I am still their mother, no matter the time that we are not together. I don't want my time as a mother to be defined by the time that we're not together, but by the times that we are (my friend Cherie wrote this in her blog post "Living in the Together" and it shook me in a way I needed to be shook).
So, we play. We cook, we dance. We exercise. We snuggle, tickle, laugh, and play.
And sometimes, I'm tired, and I let them play together while I lay collapsed on the couch. And that's okay too. Sometimes I don't have the energy to read them all the stories that I would have if I had been home all day, or to do the crafts, and the activities that we used. And the guilt tries to take over.
But I'm learning to let it go.
I'm not just a mother. I'm a teacher. A wife. A caretaker. A writer. A friend. I'm so many things.
I'm not a superhero.
I didn't betray my children.
I'm me. That's all I can be. Not who I used to be, or someone else I long to be. Just, me. Now. I want to live in the now fully so my children will one day be able to look back and say what an amazing childhood they had. Their memories won't be the one's I'd envisioned that they'd have of me being home with them, learning together, going on adventures together. Instead they'll cherish the memories of us going to school together, working in my classroom together, playing at school, gardening and growing up with Great-Grandma to play with and take care of, going on walks to the canyon together, hikes in the mountains, backyard camping, sleep-overs at Grandma Craig's house, King's games with daddy, Dodger games with Daddy, adventures with Daddy . . .
They're not the memories I'd planned for them to have, but they're ours, and that's better than any dream.
I didn't betray my children by going back to work, I betrayed myself for living with too much guilt about it for too long.
I'm done with the guilt. I'm done with looking to what could of been, or dreaming of a different tomorrow. I'm ready to fully embrace the present.
"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, Thats why it's called the Present."